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Northridge Hospital Gets First PT Tech in CountyMotek treadmill utilizes virtual reality to motivate rehab patients.

Dignity Health – Northridge Hospital Medical Center on Feb. 27 unveiled its newest machine for rehabilitation patients. The Motek C-Mill, a treadmill with virtual reality components and a price tag of $100,000, is the first in Los Angeles County. There are only three in the state, according to Christina Zicklin, director of external communications for Dignity Health. The machine helps patients correct their gait in real time, still with the help of a physical therapist operating the treadmill. Focused on the lower body, its technology caters to patients who have suffered from spinal cord injuries, stroke, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, amputation and orthopedic conditions. “There’s a lot of potential here. It’s exciting that you can work with this in real time and have the option of changing the speed as the patient progresses,” said Dr. Don Arzanipour, medical director of rehab medicine at Dignity Health – Northridge. The treadmill has virtual reality games a patient can play while receiving treatment, including walking on an alpine trail, avoiding cars like King Kong along a highway or squishing animated creatures. “For patients, you have a hard time getting them motivated,” said Kayla Chalfant, physical therapist at Dignity Health – Northridge. “The few patients I’ve worked on it with feel really safe, they feel like they can push themselves a bit more. They really like the competitiveness of the game.” Stroke survivor Tina Orkin has been seeking innovative therapies for three-plus years now, finding that traditional physical therapy tends to get a tad monotonous. The treadmill’s games, coupled with the ability to see micro-corrections on a screen in front of her, feels new. “Therapy tends to get a little boring, standing there between parallel bars and standing on one foot,” said Orkin. “This makes it more interesting. Most important to me is the immediate feedback on what I have to correct. When you look in a mirror you see a snapshot of your walk; here I can see my actual walk and adjust weight, the way my legs more up and out, so I find that’s really helpful.” For Orkin, having a machine with this kind of technology specifically for the lower body is greatly needed: “There’s a lot of technology for upper body but not so much for lower body that gives you this kind of feedback.” She also enjoyed the games. “I was doing one with a Pac-Man sort of theme,” added Orkin. “It’s like a video game with your whole body – kind of like Dance Dance Revolution.” Variability in games and a body weight support helps patients work harder without worrying they’re going to hurt themselves. “The patients can start to work on walking with the main goal of mobilizing,” explained Natalee Takasumi, clinical applications manager at Hocoma AG, a sister company to Motek, both units of DIH International Ltd. in Switzerland. “If you have a standard treadmill you can have a patient go faster but they can’t work on gait variability and different walking. The therapist can have different obstacles over the ground but it’s not intense because they might be walking at a slower speed, and it’s very predictable.” Takasumi trained staff at Northridge Hospital on how to best use the treadmill with patients. Motek’s software creates an unpredictable therapy in a safe environment, Takasumi said. Other variations on the technology add different inclines and split-belt treadmills to simulate multiple scenarios.

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